They plan to gather feedback, submit a paper to the govt-appointed council

by Jeremy Au Yong, Straits Times, 27 Nov 2007

WORRIED that a study on new media would be too focused on expert views, bloggers are getting together to make themselves heard.

Bloggers from two popular websites – yawningbread.org and theonlinecitizen.com – are calling for a meeting of Web ‘practitioners’ to gather feedback on how the Web should be regulated.

Notices posted on both sites say this of the government-linked study: ‘So far, those being consulted appear to be the elite – the experts.

‘There is a need for ordinary bloggers – and filmmakers who intend to put video material on the Internet – to get together and organise a submission to the relevant bodies, putting across the perspective of practitioners.’

Their plan is to have a small meeting of 20 to 25 bloggers on Dec 4 at The Substation in Armenian Street.

The study that triggered this move is conducted by the Advisory Council on the Impact of New Media on Society, or Aims.

The council was appointed by the Government in April to study the social, ethical, legal and regulatory impact of interactive and digital media.

Aims is still gathering information for a report that is due for release for public consultation in the first half of next year. As such, the conclusions are still up in the air.

Although Aims has invited some bloggers for roundtable discussions, it is not enough for bloggers like Mr Choo Zheng Xi, a law undergraduate at the National University of Singapore.

Said the 21-year-old who owns theonlinecitizen.com: ‘We thought a submission paper would be more impactful than five or six bloggers sitting with a whole lot of other people.

‘This is bloggers stepping up to bat. We want to take the lead in crafting the direction legislation will take. We don’t want to just provide feedback.’

Mr Alex Au, who runs yawningbread.org agreed, added that while Aims was the trigger for the meeting, it will not be the sole focus.

‘I don’t want to narrow it down. People may want to submit their feedback to other bodies or even get another parliamentary petition.’

Media researcher Tan Tarn How of the Institute of Policy Studies, who has been invited to the bloggers’ meeting, said the move is a win-win proposition.

‘A written submission, which will be debated by the public and blogged about will make the process of the study more informed and extensive.

‘For the bloggers, it’s useful to put out their views like this, as it is unfiltered.’

On the part of the council, chairman Cheong Yip Seng welcomed input from the meeting and stressed that Aims ‘intends to seek input from a wide cross-section of society, not just experts’.

He said: ‘We will be happy to consider submissions from anyone who believes he can help the development of interactive digital media and at the same time manage its ill-effects.’